Sunday, September 7, 2014

Brisbane and the Window

In the front room of my house there is a 4' wide, 3' tall plate glass window. Below that window sits the couch, where the dogs spend a good chunk of their day lounging. The back of the couch is the perfect place for Ru and the cats to catch the late afternoon sun's rays. My house is perpetually decorated for Halloween, and this includes bat decals on the windows. I've always loved those bat stickers, and now I have one more reason to appreciate them.
Photo by Erin Koski

About three weeks ago, I arrived home from work to find a trail of bloody pawprints leading to the window. The glass was cracked all the way across in multiple places, and was hanging in the frame. The only thing holding it together was my beloved bat stickers, which had prevented Brisbane from going through the window and seriously injuring himself. Instead, he had some sort of minor injury that I never located. By the time I got home for work, the bleeding had stopped and I could only find a tiny scrape on one of his feet.

My immediate response to this event was to begin crating Brisbane whenever he was unattended, crating him when the mailman or delivery people were most likely to send him into a barking frenzy, and moving the couch a couple of feet away from the wall so he could not leap full-force against the glass. I also had the pane replaced as quickly as possible, $200 later we have thicker glass and no more bats. Since I was already crating and rotating Brisbane and Ulysses, this wasn't a huge change in our daily routine.
Photo by Erin Kosk

While discussing the whole situation with various behavior and training enthusiasts, someone brought up the possibility of putting him on medication. Brisbane and I walked half a block to his vet and jotted down a quick note asking about a prescription for something like Prozac. A few minutes after we left, Dr. Rugg called back to say that she had already written him a prescription.

Three weeks after starting the medication, Brisbane no longer loses his mind at the mere sight of the United States Postal Service logo. Now he actually has to be on the same block and within a few houses of the actual mail carrier before he reacts. Briz can actually settle and relax around other dogs, he takes naps when I take him to daycare with me instead of screaming all day. While he still barks at the occasional skateboarder, he doesn't turn into a raving psychodog and flood his system with stress hormones. It feels like nine years of training has suddenly clicked into place, and all of the ways I've taught him to manage stress suddenly make sense for him.

The effect has been rather dramatic, and has certainly taken some getting used to. Brisbane has always been a clever problem-solver, but he no longer gets frustrated to the point of screambarking when he can't immediately figure out what I want. Shortly before the Prozac and the window incident, Brisbane also began limping intermittently, and with the lack of hysterics it feels almost like he has aged suddenly. We'll get to the bottom of the lameness so we can go back to Brisbane's normal wild activities soon.

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